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August 28, 2009 / Ben Chun

Mr. Question Guy

This year’s AP class is off to a strong start. I have fewer students (23) but it seems like they have a better idea of what they’re in for. I even have one student who seems to come with considerable programming experience. I’ve managed to deduce this because, starting from the first day of class, he’s asked at least a dozen questions during every meeting that were so significantly beyond the scope of what we were discussing as to be unintelligible to the rest of the students.

For example: today I introduced the distinction between declaring a variable and assigning a value to that variable. I used the typical analogy of creating a box and putting things into the box. I’m going to stop asking if there are any questions at the end of my lectures, because he seriously asked if Java has dynamic variables. And later when we talked, he pretty much knew what he was asking. In case you’re not familiar with the subject, this is like if I were introducing factoring to a math class and a student asked me if prime factorization is known to NP-hard.

You know this guy. Most people didn’t meet him until college, but here he is in my high school class. I’m glad he’s got some background and I suspect that he’ll do well, but it’s also painful to watch a kid try so hard to show off and have it end up just mostly annoying everyone. I’ve got to find a better way to handle it than my current approach, which has been to alternate between actually answering his questions (while trying to bring the rest of the class in somewhat on the answer) or just taking the question offline.

2 Comments

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  1. anon / Aug 28 2009 2:35 pm

    Sounds somewhat like me when I took the AP class, but I would just google it unless I expected some of the other “experienced” students to benefit from the answer.

    Well? Does Java have dynamic variables?

  2. Ben Chun / Aug 28 2009 3:04 pm

    No. You can not declare a variable to have a name computed at runtime. That’s what I told him.

    And, as I also told him, that’s not the point of what we’re talking about.

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